The War Horse
Shortly after the verses here following were received from France by the American Red Star Animal Relief, Lieutenant Fleming fell in action. His voice, coming to us as from a plane of life where dumb creatures do not suffer, is a call to civilization to do its duty by the animals whose kind were silent heroes of the war.
WHEN the shells are bursting round,
Making craters in the ground,
And the rifle fire's something awful cruel,
When you 'ear them in the night
(My Gawd! it makes you fight!)
An' yer thinks of them poor souls agoing 'ome,
When you 'ear the Sergeant shout
"Get y 'r respirators out,"
Then you looks and sees a cloud of something white.
The gas is coming on
An' yer knows before it's gone
That the 'orse wots with you now won't be by then;
Yer loves him like yer wife
An' yer wants to save 'is life,
But there ain't no respirators, not for them.
I was standing by 'is side
On the night my old 'orse died,
An' I shan't forget 'is looks towards the last.
'E is choking mighty bad,
An' is eyes was looking mad,
An' I seed that--'e--was dying--dying fast.
An' I want to tell yer 'ow
It's the 'orses gets us through,
For they strains their blooming 'earts out when they're pressed.
We was galloping like 'ell
When a bullet 'its old Bill,
I c'd see the blood a-streaming down 'is face,
It 'ad got 'im in the 'ead,
But 'e stuck to it and led
Till we comes to ''Action right,''
An' then 'e fell.
I 'adn't time to choose
I 'ad to cut 'im loose,
For 'e'd done all 'e c'd afore a gun.
When I looks at 'im again
'E was out of all 'is pain,
An' I 'opes 'is soul will rest for wot 'e done.
If it 'adn't been for Bill
We should all 'ave been in 'ell,
For we only got in action just in time.
Ain't it once occurred to you
Wot the 'orses there go through?
They 'elps to win our fight an' does it fine.
When 'is blood is flowing 'ot
From a wound what 'e's just got
An' 'is breath is coming 'ard an' short an' thin.
'E can see the men about,
Getting water dealed out,
But not a drop is brought to comfort 'im;
Tho 'is tongue is parched and dry,
'E can see the water by,
But 'is wounds are left to bleed,
An' 'e can't tell us 'is need,
So 'e's just got to bear 'is pain--an' think.
There are 'eroes big and small,
But the biggest of them all
Is the 'orse wot lays a--dying on the ground.
'E doesn't cause no wars,
An' 'e's only fighting yours,
An' 'e gives 'is life for you without a sound.
'E doesn't get no pay,
Just some oats, and p'r'aps some hay;
If 'e's killed, no one thinks a bit of 'im
"E's just as brave an' good
As any men wot ever stood,
But there's mighty little though or 'elp for 'im.
NotesShortly after the verses here following were received from France by the American Red Star Animal Relief, Lieutenant Fleming fell in action. His voice, coming to us as from a plane of life where dumb creatures do not suffer, is a call to civilization to do its duty by the animals whose kind were silent heroes of the war.
W. D. Eaton, ed. Great Poems of the World War. Chicago: T.S. Denison & Company, 1922.